Understanding family as a social institution is crucial to studying societies and social behavior. In any society, the concept of family is tied to culture and to social institutions such as the economy and the education system. However, rules, values, and norms around the concept of the family vary across societies. Within a society, they change over time. Sociologists study family structure, types of families, and kinship bonds. They look at trends in marriage and divorce, as well as how these relate to other social patterns. They seek to understand the social context of family violence. They also analyze how social policy affects families.
At A Glance
- Sociologists view the family as a social institution that provides a set of rules about how to live in society.
Family and kinship ties exist between people who are related by biology, adoption, marriage, or close relationships.
Kinship implies the feeling of being deeply and intimately connected to other people.
- There are many types of families, including family of procreation, nuclear family, binuclear family, blended family, and extended family.
Social and cultural norms relating to families reflect and contribute to social, economic, and political change.
- Sociologists take different theoretical approaches to understanding the family as a social institution.
- Norms about marriage vary, but marriage is an institution in every society.
Marriage and divorce have legal definitions but also carry social meanings and impacts.
Family violence is violence within the family unit and is most frequently perpetrated by men.
- The two main categories of family violence are child abuse and spousal or partner abuse.
Social policy, the actions and plans of government agencies, affects families in many ways including policies on marriage, childcare, education, housing, crime, and taxes.